Manuscripts and Special Collections

Introduction to Medieval Literary Manuscripts


The University of Nottingham holds a small, but very significant collection of literary manuscripts from the Middle Ages (before 1600).

In this category we include religious service books such as breviaries, psalters, prayer books, and books of medieval church music. Literary manuscripts also include verse and prose tales and works of moral instruction. Some of these were anonymous; others record texts of well-known authors. Medieval manuscripts which were produced, used and read in England were written in a variety of languages. Our collections include examples written in Anglo-Norman (a dialect of French), medieval French, Latin and Middle English.

Most medieval literary works were hand-written, as printing technology only came into use in England at the end of the fifteenth century. Some are richly decorated and illuminated with gold leaf and colourful pigments. They may be found in their original binding, in a later binding, or as loose leaves of parchment or paper. They are studied as physical examples of medieval artefacts as well for their literary or artistic content.

All medieval documents present a challenge for curators. They have survived for at least five hundred years, and must be preserved so that they remain available for researchers into the future as well. This means that handling of the delicate original materials must be limited. Microform surrogates are normally offered to researchers, and digital technology is increasingly being used to provide new ways to study these remarkable survivals.

This set of web pages provides information about the collections of medieval literary manuscripts held by Manuscripts and Special Collections at the University of Nottingham.


Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 4565
fax: +44 (0) 115 846 8651